Schooling without the School

By Anna Yee

July 3, 2011 Updated Jul 3, 2011 at 10:52 PM CDT

"It's just as important as going to church."

That's what local teacher Hedy Elliott-Gardner thinks about school.

That's why she volunteers her Sunday mornings in this Harrison Homes kitchen.

Starting July 1, District 150 officially cut all adult education funding, but a handful of students still want to learn.

"There shouldn't be this many people asking for help, and how can you say no when people are asking for an education?" said Hedy Elliott-Gardner. "I think that's shameful."

Each week, Creamolia Jackson opens her home to Elliott-Gardner and those pursing an education.

"To know that there's somebody that cares, that wants me to get it, that's Miss Hedy," said Jackson, one of Elliott-Gardner's students.

For 64-year-old Jackson, getting her GED is a dream come true.

"I have seven children," said Jackson, "and I had made a promise to them that if they got their diplomas or GED's, when I get a chance I would. Well, it's my turn."

It's also Demeres Dillard's turn. The 22-year-old ran into some trouble with the law but is sticking with his studies, thanks to his teacher.

"Hedy is a genuine person," said Dillard. "She can relate, and she connected with us on a level probably no other teacher would."

Dillard isn't just doing this for himself. He's doing it for his family and friends.

"I want to show them that there's more to what we see, than what we think we know," said Dillard. "I want to show them that there's a world out here, and it's way broader than the things we see on a daily basis, and just to open doors, you know."

Elliott-Gardner is trying to open more doors for adult education.

In two weeks, she'll meet with city leaders to discuss the future of the program, and the future of her students.

"They show up for no reason other than they want an education," said Elliott-Gardner. "That's why I'm here, because they want to be here."

District 150's Regional Superintendent Doctor Gerald Brookhart says there are GED classes offered at other venues like Illinois Central College.

But, he says District 150 is looking into ways to fund and staff its own programs throughout the area.

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